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N.Y. Author Liked It Here Fine but . . .

May 28, 1988|DENNIS McLELLAN

If nothing else, author Mary Morris' sojourn to Orange County has proven that she's a confirmed New Yorker.

Morris, who left her Manhattan brownstone last fall to begin a two-year appointment as writer-in-residence at UC Irvine, won't be returning to UCI in the fall. Instead she'll be in Washington, where she will be the distinguished writer-in-residence at American University for a semester. And in the spring, she'll be back in New York where she'll teach writing in the graduate program at New York University.

"I liked a lot of things here, but I just think I need to be closer to what I know: I just feel I kind of missed family and friends back East," said Morris, who, as writer-in-residence, ran UCI's undergraduate creative writing curriculum and taught short-story writing: "Some of the students I worked with have been real writers and real pleasures to work with and I'm happy to have had the experience of working with them."

While in Orange County, the author of one novel and two collections of short stories had her first nonfiction book published, "Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone" (Houghton Mifflin). Morris' vivid account of the people and places she encountered during an 18-month odyssey through Mexico and Central America has been the No. 1 general nonfiction best-seller at independent bookstores in Orange County.

Morris, who is working on her second novel, will sign copies of "Nothing to Declare" on June 3 at Waldenbooks in Laguna Hills from 1 to 3 p.m. Perhaps traffic will be light on the way to the mall.

"I don't like the driving," Morris said by way of critiquing Southern California. "Public transportation would have made me stay: a better way to get around. The thing about New York, if you've got to be somewhere and traffic's bad, you can walk. Traffic here is unpredictable.You don't know if you need three hours to get to Los Angeles or one hour."

Still, Morris is in no hurry to leave Laguna. She and her 15-month-old daughter, Katie, will continue renting their house near the beach through August.

But before they leave, the "Nothing to Declare" author has this to declare about Southern California: "I think for me, if I could just merge the things I like about California like the physical beauty, the weather and the relaxed atmosphere with the vitality and the person-to-person contact I feel in New York City, I would feel I have come to paradise.

"I have this theory: L.A. is for painters and visual artists and New York is for writers because New York is about bumping into people and L.A. is about space and light."

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